Warm summer months often means throwing open windows to invite in the fresh air, the sunshine, and, unfortunately, some decidedly unwelcome insects.

These uninvited guests can be tough to get rid of, so it’s important to educate yourself on the most common household insects. In doing so, you can best determine what measures you should take to eliminate them from your home.

“All the Little Ants Are Marching”

No matter where you live, household ants are one of the most invasive pest problems. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common.

If you see one or two ants cavorting around the kitchen, the laundry area, or the bathroom, a whole host of their friends will soon be joining the party. As they forage for food, ants leave an invisible trail of pheromones that allows others to follow them.

Most varieties of household ants prefer to build their nests outdoors. They come inside in search of food to bring back to the colony; however, a colony may relocate indoors due to extreme outdoor conditions such as high water or drought.

Once a colony is established indoors, a professional pest control service is often needed to evict the ants completely.

The most commonly seen ants in the home don’t bite, but they still do pose a threat. Ant waste left behind by swarms can contaminate food and make people in the home sick.

Four Types of Ants Are Common Home Invaders

Carpenter Ants

  • Color: Commonly black, though some species are yellow or red
  • Preferred Habitats: Outdoors or indoors - soft, moldy wood, walls and ceilings (WARNING: Infestations can further damage wood)
  • Food Attractors: All food, especially sweets
  • Bites: Yes
  • Seasonal: Yes; swarms May to July-August

Odorous House Ants

  • Color: Brown to black
  • Preferred Habitats: Outdoors - in mulch, exposed soil, or under stones; indoors - wall and floor cracks
  • Food Attractors: Meat, dairy, sugar
  • Bites: No
  • Seasonal: No season; colony expands whenever additional resources are needed

Pharaoh Ants

  • Color: Light yellow to reddish brown
  • Preferred Habitats: Indoors near heat/moist areas
  • Food Attractors: Meats, grease, sugar
  • Bites: No
  • Seasonal: No; swarms in all seasons

Crazy Ants

  • Color: Black
  • Preferred Habitats: Outdoors only - trash, compost heaps, tree soil
  • Food Attractors: Meat, sugar
  • Bites: No
  • Seasonal: Yes; swarms in spring

“They’ve Got Legs”

Most multi-legged home pests are not dangerous; the most common don’t typically bite the human occupants of the space they are crashing. But the sight of many legs rapidly wriggling across a floor or wall is often enough to provoke a scream from even the hardiest homeowner.

Silverfish & Firebrats

These flat, scaly insects are often found among old boxes, dusty bookshelves, and in dank basements. They are most active at night and work hard to avoid direct sunlight.

When you move an object they’ve been using for cover, they will frantically seek a new place to hide. Silverfish and firebrats are similar in shape – up to a half-inch long, elongated bodies with long, slender feelers at the head end and three whip-like projections at the tail.

However, their tastes in habitat are exactly opposite:

Silverfish

  • Climate: Cool, Moist
  • Found In/Near: Sinks, Bathtubs, Basements, Laundry Rooms, Kitchen Cabinets/Pipes

Firebrats

  • Climate: Hot, Dry, Prefers 90-100 degrees
  • Found In/Near: Furnaces, Ovens, Insulation around Hot Water Heaters/Pipes

Sowbugs & Millipedes

While not technically insects and not harmful to food or household items, these home invaders can still be unwelcome visitors.

They tend to pop up during the spring and summer months, initially appearing out of crevices in the house where they may have overwintered or when excessive rains have driven them inside.

The bugs prefer moist habitats such as laundry areas or basements. However, since they feed on decaying plants and vegetation, they don’t typically reproduce or live for more than a few days inside the home.

House Centipedes

With its 15 pairs of feathery-looking legs and habit of darting suddenly across walls and floors, the house centipede has sent countless homeowners running for the broom. But not only are these little creatures harmless to people, but they can also be beneficial to the household.

The main diet of the house centipede is populated with the insects that plague us most:

  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Bedbugs
  • Cockroach nymphs
  • Crickets
  • Silverfish
  • Small spiders

While the house centipede does secrete venom, they do not commonly bite people or pets, and a bite will only cause a small, localized sting.

"Fly, Away”

Whether they sting or merely slobber, flying pests in your home can be especially frustrating. Their ability to take to the air to elude flailing arms, rolled newspapers, and the most determined house cats make them public enemy number one on the insect roster.

Common House Flies

The greatest populations of house flies are seen in summer months – under ideal conditions, the fly will develop from egg to adult in a minimum of seven days.

Though it is commonly seen buzzing around the kitchen, house flies generally develop outdoors and find their way into the home through an open window or loose screen.

House flies do not bite – their mouths are funnel-like protrusions from their heads, and they ingest their food by covering it with their saliva to dissolve it and then slurp up the resulting slurry.

This, combined with their habit of landing and exploring every surface from your breakfast donut to the garbage pail, makes them a prime suspect in the transmission of illness, including diarrhea, food poisoning, and even eye infections.

Drain Flies

Unlike their common cousins, drain flies often originate inside the home. As their name suggests, drain flies typically emerge from drains in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. Irregular masses of 10 to 200 eggs are laid at a time.

They hatch within 48 hours and feed on the sediment and decaying vegetation that collects in the drains. After maturation, the adult drain fly lives between one to three weeks.

While they are weak fliers and can usually be squashed if you see one hovering around, the real problem is that they breed in such large numbers that the population can get out of control very quickly.

They can be particularly challenging for people with bronchial issues; inhaling the insects can trigger attacks in asthmatics.

Yellowjackets & Bumblebees

Found all over the U.S., yellowjackets and bumblebees are the most common and the most aggressive of the winged insects that sting.

Yellowjackets

  • Identification: Yellow and black head; band pattern on abdomen; 3/8 to 5/8-inch long
  • Habits: Nest in-ground or in eaves and attics; Primary foods are proteins and sweets; often scavenge from human food sources; More aggressive in the fall
  • Attack: Sting multiple times; Venom is highly allergenic

Bumblebees

  • Identification: Oval shape with enlarged rear section
  • Habits: Primarily nest in the ground; will sometimes build nests in soffits or attics; Buzzing volume gets louder as nests or bees are disturbed
  • Attack: Aggressive defense of nests; Sting multiple times; Will chase intruders over long distances

“Home Sweet Home”

While professional interventions can eliminate the pests, one of the most helpful things homeowners can do to prevent an invasion is to change the household environment.

Some basic types of upkeep will make your place less hospitable to freeloaders.

  • Dry out damp areas
    • Correct roof or plumbing leaks
    • Have plumbed appliances checked for proper seals
    • Always make sure faucets are turned off completely
  • Eliminate entry points
    • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation
    • Make sure window and door screens are well-fitted
    • Move excess soil and mulch away from the home’s siding
    • Remove any vegetation touching the roof or siding
    • Stack cordwood away from the house and keep it elevated
  • Clean up storage areas
    • Remove unused books, papers, etc.
    • Launder or dry-clean clothes before storing them
    • Keep dry goods (such as sugar, flour, oils, and rice) in containers with tight seals

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